Fibre is the indigestible parts of plant foods that remain unchanged as it passes through the body. It is found in fruit and vegetables, grains, nuts, beans and legumes. So, why do we need it if it’s not digested? Dietary fibre helps keep our digestive system healthy and is vital for our overall wellbeing. A diet high in fibre is linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease and may also reduce the risk of bowel cancer. Since high fibre foods are filling they also make it easier to maintain a healthy weight.
There are three different types of fibre, each with different functions and health benefits.
1. Soluble fibre
Helps to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and stabilise your blood glucose levels. It also helps you feel full due to its slow digestion. It is found in oats, psyllium, fruit, vegetables, barley and legumes
2. Insoluble fibre
Absorbs water to help to soften stools, helping to prevent constipation. It is found in wheatbran, nuts, seeds and the skin of fruit and vegetables
3. Resistant starch
Assists in the production of good bacteria in the large intestine and improves bowel health. It is found in unripe bananas, cooked and cooled potato, wholegrains and lentils
How much fibre should we aim to eat?
You should aim to eat 25-30 g of fibre every day.
Simple ways to increase your fibre intake
• Swap white bread, rice, crackers and pasta for wholemeal or wholegrain varieties
• Add chia seeds, LSA mix, chopped nuts or psyllium husk to smoothies, yoghurts, salads or cereal.
• Add legumes or barley to soups, stews and curries
• Snack on vegetable sticks
• When selecting packaged foods aim for 3g of fibre/serve
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Anderson, J.W. 2009. “Health benefits of dietary fibre”, Nutrition Review, (4):188-205. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19335713#